Archive for the ‘ Spirituality ’ Category

The Amazing Photo of Alicia Atkins’ Baby Reaching From the Womb

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

2 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack,

In the age of the Internet, there have been some awesome, yet possibly fake, pictures of yet unborn babies reaching from the womb, holding onto the doctor’s hands.

Well, here’s one that is definitely real:

Nevaeh Atkins

This black and white picture features the tiny hand of Nevaeh Atkins, in the midst of being born into this world, via C-section.

As the picture is currently going viral, it makes me wonder what people are thinking as they see it for the first time.

It makes me think of what was going through my head when Mommy was only 21 weeks pregnant with you. Here’s what I wrote about you during that time:

“And as real as this is, that our son is actually inside there, so lively, it’s still ingrained in my brain somehow Baby Jack is light years away, floating around in a heavenly baby universe until November. Despite feeling him with my own hand, with just centimeters separating the skin of my hand and the skin of his body, despite him literally being a matter of a few feet away (or less, depending on how near I am to my wife), I’m having trouble grasping that in reality, he’s right there.”

This picture is obviously worth a thousand words; so simple and universal, yet still nearly too difficult to capture in words.

Just off the cuff, though, my initial thought is about how helpless a newborn is; grasping desperately for comfort, strength, and guidance. Likewise, when you were born, I also was grasping desperately for those same things.

It’s as if when you were born, I felt like I was automatically supposed to know what to do with you. I see now how impractical it was to think that at the time.

No matter how many books, blogs, and relevant conversations I exposed myself to in an attempt to prepare myself to be your dad, none of it really came close.

Probably the most realistic image to symbolize the moment you were born is if your hand would have popped out of the womb and we nervously shook hands, in agreement that we’re both really new at this. We would then half-jokingly wish each other good luck.

Here we are, over 2 years into this and I’m still trying my best to give you comfort, strength, and guidance in this world. That will never change.

Love,
Daddy

Photo credit: Randy Atkins / A Classic Pin-Up Photography

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Processing The Newtown, Connecticut School Shooting As A Parent

Friday, December 14th, 2012

2 years.

Dear Jack,

While I will always do my best to give you answers about life, there are certain things that just can’t be explained with a reasonable answer. Today will be most remembered as the day a gunman killed seven adults and 20 children at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

People ask, “Why did this happen?”

No one can give a reasonable explanation, because nothing about this incident was reasonable or explainable.

My attempt at an explanation is that some people in this world feel so broken, unloved, and numb that they give up on life.

The irony is, as hopeless and alone as they feel, they still don’t want to die alone.

It’s times like these that cause some people to ask, “If there is a God, why would He allow such an unthinkable event to happen?”

Others ask, “How could an event like this not cause people to turn to God, in the hope that there is a saving grace stronger than the depravity of man?”

In these moments we are forced to both contemplate and appreciate our own lives.

After all, we are the ones that still have the gift of life.

As messed up as it gets sometimes, we still share this gift. We still have the opportunity to love others as ourselves.

People who destroy the lives of others don’t, and maybe even can’t, understand this concept. I’m sure part of the reason is that they themselves weren’t shown enough love in their own life, but that doesn’t give them any excuse.

That’s why as your dad, I will always be teaching you the importance of making people feel special and included. If we all did that the best we could, maybe we could help create a butterfly effect where we passed along hope instead of despair.

I will teach you to seek out the lost, the friendless, the misunderstood, and the lonely. They need a good friend.

And I believe you will make a good one.

We can never explain events like the one that happened today. We can only do our part to quench the pattern of brokenness and fear with a pattern of love and hope.

I love you, Son. I hugged you extra close tonight. So did Mommy. We’re going to take good care of you.

 

Love,

Daddy

 

Image credit: Shutterstock, Highway Gantry Sign.

 

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Why Chess Is Good For Boys Who Like Violent Shooter Video Games

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

21 months.

Back in April, I chose to become involved in a “Big Brother” type of program called Men Of Valor; a program to mentor children whose fathers are incarcerated.

I was matched with a 15 year-old boy who was known for keeping to himself and playing “shoot-’em-up” video games online.

For those first couple of one-on-one meetings I had with him, I really didn’t know what to do.

But then he told me he was considering becoming a sniper in the military.

Coincidentally, I had just finished a book called MicroTrends, which had a chapter called “Aspiring Snipers,” explaining how the the popularity of shooter games like Halo and Call of Duty have spiked a trend in high school boys surveyed, saying that they are interested in becoming US military snipers when they graduate high school.

I racked my brain on how I could use his interest in shooter games and his inspiration to become a US military sniper as ways for us two to get to know each other better.

Then I thought back to a classic game in which I have been looking for a good partner for years: Chess!

In chess, you can use pieces like the queen, the bishop, and the rook to “snipe” the other player from the other side of the board.

Essentially, those pieces are best used after you have distracted your opponent with a threat on one side of the chess board, then in the likeness of a sniper, you slide in from the other side and take out one of the player’s pieces.

I began thinking, “Aspiring snipers should play chess.” I’m now convinced that chess is indeed the most archaic version of today’s online shooter games.

So every other Thursday, I pick him up to take him out for a Frappuccino at Starbucks and we play our 3 chess matches.

It took him about 7 or 8 chess matches to finally beat me for the first time. Like I told him, I wasn’t going to let him win nor would I go easy on him at all.

But as of our last meeting a few days ago, it was the first time in 3 matches that I finally beat him again.

That’s right. He’s a well-matched chess partner for me now.

As of our last meeting, he mentioned to me that he may be interested in going to college to be a History Major, or maybe even an English Major like I was.

But whether he ends up fighting for our country in the military, or becoming a historian or a teacher, I’m here to support him; and I say, it all began with a classic game of chess.

I now invite you to read my instant sequel to this article, 5 Reasons To Play Chess With Your Child.

 

Top image: Two knights face to face on chessboard, via Shutterstock.

Bottom image: Chess coffee, via Shutterstock.

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Attempting To Vote For The “Better Christian” For President In 2012

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

21 months.

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, then you know that A) I talk about my son a lot and B) I love discussing politics.

This election is epic! Here we are, deciding which man we believe best represents our own code of morality and decision-making.

For me, the most interesting part is regarding the discussions I’m hearing about the religious beliefs of the candidates, particularly from conservative Protestant Republicans.

Up until 3 years ago, before becoming your neighborhood friendly Ron Paul supporter, I was a Republican and I voted that way every four years.

Like many other conservative Protestants I knew, I voted for the Republican candidate, if for no other reason, because he was pro-life.

While I am still very pro-life, my focus is no longer on choosing the “better Christian,” or in other words, the most conservative Christian candidate.

Here’s the irony: Many Protestants don’t consider Mormons to be Christians; some of the biggest reasons being because Christians believe that Jesus is equal to God and that Jesus was physically raised from the dead. (My understanding is that Mormons don’t believe those things.)

In other words, certain Republican Protestants are voting for the “better Christian,” though, by their own definition of what it means to be a Christian, the man they will be voting for is not actually a Christian.

Instead, they’re voting for the man who best represents their particular Christian values.

This is the first election in a long time where Republicans don’t have a Protestant Presidential candidate to stand behind.

(The only Catholic President in American history was JFK, who he was a Democrat.)

What if Mitt Romney was a conservative, pro-life agnostic instead of a Mormon?

How “non-Christian” can a Republican Presidential candidate be and still be backed by the conservative Protestants as the “better Christian” candidate?

Of course, I keep having to put “better Christian” in quotation marks just to be clear that I personally I am not publicly judging their allegiance to Christ; I think if I did, it wouldn’t be very Christian of me.

Similarly, I think it’s unfair to demonize a President just because he’s with the “wrong” political party.

President Obama is not evil. Nor was George W. Bush. They just happened to be the first two Presidents we’ve had since the Internet has been relevant to mainstream America and since blogs have been subconsciously influential to the masses; so these recent Presidents have been much more rapidly criticized.

It can be so natural to call their actions evil when you’re part of the opposing political party. In the process, the whole other political party in that case becomes evil too.

In other words, either half of America is evil; it just depends on which side of the fence you’re not.

Like I said in the beginning, we as a nation, as parents of children whom we are trying to instill our own morals into, are trying to vote for the man we believe best represents our own code of morality and decision-making.

Sure, our own personal religious beliefs should play into that. But at least for conservative Protestant Republicans, it’s not as simple this time around as choosing the “better Christian.”

So, will America choose a Christian or a Mormon for President in 2012?

 

Top images: US Republican and Democrat, via Shutterstock.

Bottom image: Two voodoo dolls, via Shutterstock.

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What If Adults Were Forced To Apologize Like Children Are?

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

21 months.

My wife and I are having to daily remind our son Jack that hitting us is not something he is allowed to do. We offer him an alternative, which is petting us like a dog or cat, instead.

Yeah, I know, it sounds goofy but so far it’s helping him understand the difference between being friendly and being offensive.

Every time he does hit us or bite us, we put him in time-out upstairs in his jail cell, I mean bed, and after we remind him of why he was being punished, we make him apologize to the parent he physically attacked.

“Soddy.”

That’s his version of “I’m sorry” and we always gladly accept it. We force him to apologize to help him realize that he must be held accountable for his actions when he hurts others. It’s important that we lay that foundation now.

However, there is a downside to being taught to apologize to a person when you hurt or offend them: You may grow up to become an adult who believes you can’t forgive someone until they apologize to you first.

Two weeks ago I published “The Difference Between Punishing And Disciplining My Child” which explored the stark difference of how we discipline our children in hopes of making them better people, meanwhile we privately or publicly wish harm upon our enemies.

It’s easier to wish ill upon them, as opposed to honestly wanting them to change their ways.

So today I share with you the sequel to that thought:

What if adults were forced to apologize like children are?

More importantly is this question: Do you personally require offenders to apologize to you before you can allow yourself to forgive them?

Last Friday night on 20/20 I watched the 2 hour Diane Sawyer interview with Jaycee Dugard.

I was humbled by the way Jaycee was able to forgive her captors, recognizing that by becoming bitter and requiring their apology to move on would mean that she is continuing to give them power of her even though she has been freed from her captivity and torture.

Despite all they took from her, she now refuses to allow them to take away anything more. But it took forgiving them to be at that point.

It’s safe to say that the majority of us have never experienced anywhere near the level of hell that Jaycee Dugard did during her 18 years of captivity.

Yet she chose to forgive and finds liberty in it.

Yes, I will continue to force my nearly 2 year-old son to apologize when he bites me on the shoulder like a rabid wolf.

But as he grows older and is able to understand, I will also teach him that being apologized to is not a prerequisite to being able to forgive a person. Apologizing is what good people do once they realize they’ve done something wrong.

So it should be no surprise when bad people don’t apologize.

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